Filed under: abortion, Catholic Liturgy, Culture and Catholicism | Tags: abortion, Angelus Press, Benedict XVI, Catholic church, dignitatis humanae, Edward Kennedy funeral, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, nostra aetate, novus ordo, Patrick Leahy, pro-abort Catholics, pro-choice, pro-choice Catholics, pro-life, SSPX, the Council, traditional mass, Vatican II
Pro-life Catholics usually take the attitude toward pro-choice Catholic politicians that they are ‘renegade Catholics,’ acting outside the teaching of the Church regarding the definition of human life. We marvel that ‘dissidents’ continue to function within Catholic circles, unchallenged, receiving communion, teaching at Catholic schools, and even living in Catholic seminaries and convents.
Why is error so persistent? Isn’t Catholicism clear?
The misunderstanding apparently goes both ways. Recently the ‘renegades’ turned the tables and openly castigated pro-life Catholics for their lack of charity in vigorously protesting the Catholic funeral afforded the popular senator Ted Kennedy, who never repudiated his support for abortion. Some thought to be ‘traditional’ in the Catholic hierarchy participated in the laudatory funeral, to the renewed surprise of Novus Ordo pro-life activists. (Does not their surprise bone ever get weary?)
It’s almost diabolical. Or, is there some competing Catholic teaching that contradicts the obvious one that an unborn child is protected by the commandment against murder? Is there some teaching that supports pro-choice Catholics and allows those who disregard abortion to freely function by all levels of the Catholic hierarchy? How do pro-choice Catholics justify their voting records? And what can pro-life Catholics do besides wag their fingers and chant ‘shame shame shame!’ on the internet?
Pro-choice politicians rarely risk public statements detailing the theology informing their voting records, but there have been chinks in the wall. Nancy Pelosi, for example, on Meet the Press, explained her support for abortion this way: “This isn’t about abortion on demand, it’s about a careful, careful consideration of all factors and–to–that a woman has to make with her doctor and her god.” (Punctuation as in original transcript.)
In other words, Pelosi is honoring a woman’s right to practice the religion of her choice, as guaranteed by our constitution–and, here’s the teaching that contradicts the commandment against murder: by the constitutions of Vatican II.
Vatican II made a right of the tolerance that had been practiced for reasons of charity or prudence on a case-by-case basis. Dignitatis humanae, the Declaration on religious freedom, asserts throughout that religious decision are strictly up to the individual and that no one must use any form of coercion to influence those precious decisions.
It is said in the declaration, for example, that “government is to see to it that equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common good, is never violated, whether openly or covertly, for religious reasons.” The word ‘right’ is used forty-eight times in the document regarding absolute religious freedom; one paragraph (n. 4) notes that “society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection” and therefore the right of the government, not the Church, to define what is an abuse. Pelosi’s government does not define abortion as an abuse, and hence Nancy says she may, and even must, as a good Vatican II Catholic, honor the religions of all, even if they involve the sacrifice of one small human life. When Pelosi explains her voting record by saying abortion is ‘between a woman and her god,’ she clearly cites the woman’s freedom of religion to make such a decision.
The Church has not clarified Dignitatis humanae or numerous other constitutional references to ‘freedom of conscience,’ ‘freedom of religion,’ ‘freedom to choose,’ to clearly and unequivocally state that abortion, polygamy, divorce, and gay sexuality are not covered by the council’s insistence on ‘freedom’ and do not merit the excessive ‘respect’ continually demanded by Council documents. Unless this teaching is clarified, Nancy Pelosi is legitimately reflecting the diversity of her electorate. Vatican II commands her to do so in the novel teaching that religious freedom is an absolute right rather than charity toward many religious expressions of other faiths on a case by case basis, which the Church had always taught before the Council, but which may never be demanded as a right in those instances where the public good is so much at stake.
Other theologians take the ‘right’ to abort as an issue of Church and state as well, as evidenced by an article in a 1999 article in Christian Ethics Today by Dr. John M. Swomley, professor emeritus of social ethics at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City. The pro-abort article takes the Vatican and active pro-life Catholics to task for their opposition to abortion specifically as a violation of the principle of separation of Church and state and emphasizes how important, unique, and precedent-setting this separation has been in the history of the United States and then for the world. The lynch pin to such separation is, of course, a presumed ‘right’ to practice whatever religion one chooses, however erroneous, with the state the neutral peacemaker between ideologies.
This new “right” is clearly novel. The popes of the nineteenth century formally condemned ‘religious freedom’ over and over as a liberal error. Pius IX, for example, in Quanta cura, explicitly denounced the proposition that “liberty of conscience and of forms of worship is a right proper to every man,” almost the exact words later elevated by Vatican II to the level of doctrine.
Thus freedom of worship is central to the continuation of abortion. Joe Biden gave an explanation similar to Pelosi’s for his voting record. Arguing that it was impossible to ban abortion, Biden said, “That’s sort of reflected as close as anybody is ever going to get in this heterogeneous, this multicultural society of religious people as to some sort of, not consensus, but as close it gets.” John Kerry said that, although he was an altar boy, he must cite freedom of religion as the basis for his pro-choice voting record: “I can’t take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn’t share that article of faith.” He is in this backed up by the US constitution. But he is also backed up by the new teaching of the Church. According to Vatican II’s teaching on freedom of religion, he really can’t set limits on the belief of others, and there are plenty of lay Catholics, theologians (among them Miguel Diaz, the new US envoy to the Vatican), religious sisters, priests, bishops, and cardinals who agree with him, and vote for him, by the same justification.
That it makes it easier to live the good life in secular America is only icing on the cake. Otherwise it’s possible there could be blood.
Commonweal magazine called pro-abort Catholic politician Patrick Leahy, Vermont, a “John Courtney Murray Catholic,” Murray being the American peritus at the Council who gave us the teaching on the supremacy of the secular state over the religious state, with all religions subject to the state, which would ensure ‘equality before the law’ among them, at a time when there were still Catholic states, and it killed them, or rather it removed their justification by their own faith, so that others could kill them. This is the teaching of the Council’s Nostra aetate. Commonweal meant it as a compliment. The Church has not yet disabused Commonweal of the notion by repudiating John Courtney Murray and all he represented for the fall of the Church in the last forty years.
One does not know how many deaths beyond the unspeakable fifty million lives lost to abortion it will take to disabuse us of Murray’s tired hippy talk that ‘mankind’s conscience’ will always lead us to the good secular state, the state best suited for the modern world. The secular state doesn’t even provide us with a decent economy–because it keeps killing its future taxpayers and consumers!
And we are paralyzed as well as broke. Politically, the US is at a stalemate. We cannot get the health care we need. We cannot get the divorce reform laws we need to protect the institution of marriage, or even agree on a definition of marriage. We cannot get laws against the tsunami of pornography debasing our children. We cannot get banking industry reform, or tort reform. We cannot get even medicare reform, because we have a viciously secular government that has (as critics of the Council at the time pointed out would be the inevitable result of such a radical amputation of church from state), a nasty impulse to kill human beings to solve problems. Even the most humble of the elderly knows what that means: it means when times really get tough, like now, they’re coming for you. And so the elderly are acting up at town hall meetings. And they should. And they vote. So we’re paralyzed. And stressed.
Church and state have too many overlapping concerns to be completely separated, with the state elevated over the Church, as Vatican II does. It causes chaos. We’re living it.
Nor was total separation of Church and state ever the traditional teaching of the Church. For example, Leo XIII wrote, in Immortale dei (n. 25), that human societies cannot, without becoming criminal, conduct themselves as if God did not exist. And yet Vatican II elevated the secular state to the model for the world, rather than teaching us how to live and fight for the faith in a secular world. Vatican II capitulated. It is true our times are more difficult regarding the separation of church and state, and it is true that the US is the most difficult, the most secular, of all.
But that does not mean we change the teaching, only the tactics. Unless we’re cowards. Vatican II caved.
But it can be fixed. Other temporary lapses have been fixed in the history of the Church. And then we can begin the work of re-building.
Traditionalist pro-lifers have stood shoulder to shoulder with Novus Ordo pro-lifers outside abortion mills, we have worked together in drives to collect funds and clothing for pregnant women, we have journeyed the many miles to Washington every year, and we have had our martyrs. We know each other to be sincere. It is time for these Novus Ordo pro-life soldiers to listen to their traditional comrades and attend to the doctrinal issues from the sixties that give a platform to abortion forces. We must all stand up and tell the Church:
Fix Vatican II!
We must write them letters the way we write to politicians. We must send them emails. And blog them and twitter them. Tell our pastors. Tell our bishops. Fix Vatican II! Quit acting as if it were all fine! Look at how it is being used, and fix it, before Catholicism disappears and the world ends. Just break down and restate the teaching according to Tradition, so that we’re all on the same page, and let’s get on with the work of evangelization!
First and last, we must pray the rosary as hard as we can that the coming talks between SSPX and the Vatican, which will address exactly these issues (in spite of Austrian bishop Schonborn’s assertion they’d be ‘off the table’), are successful on the side of SSPX. That might be painful for some Novus Ordo pro-life activists. But investigate further, and think about the very strong possibility that these novel teachings are the secret heart of our difficulties, from Notre Dame to health care reform. Clarity would force pro-abort Catholic politicians (and their Catholic voting base, and their Catholic media base) to find another way to explain their defection from traditional teaching on the absolute sanctity of human life–they’d at least have to stop calling themselves Catholic, which our confusion on doctrine allows them to do, or vote for life. For it is not their defection, but Vatican II’s first, that began our economic, political, moral, spiritual meltdown.
Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre said it so much better, in They Have Uncrowned Him. You can get it here along with other good Catholic books, or on Amazon.
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